Many Patients Plan Medicare Plan Switch


An eHealth, Inc. survey reveals Medicare beneficiaries are getting smart about reviewing their coverage options.


eHealth, Inc. released results from their latest Medicare Choices Survey: Open Enrollment for 2020. Results show, while about 78% of Medicare beneficiaries are happy with their current health plan, 79% also intend to review their coverage options during the open enrollment season, according to a news release.

The report is based on a voluntary survey conducted in October 2019 of 1,351 eHealth Medicare customers who had purchased Medicare health insurance products through the company’s websites to explore their motivations in shopping for coverage.

The survey results are being released during Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) for 2020 coverage, which began October 15 and is scheduled to continue through December 7, 2019.

Related: Medicare for All: Four Things Health Executives Should Know

“Our survey results suggest Medicare beneficiaries are getting the message that it’s smart to review your coverage options every year,” says Scott Flanders, CEO of eHealth. “Your personal coverage needs may have changed, and your prescription drug coverage or provider networks may be changing next year. New plans are also being introduced for 2020. That’s why we encourage all Medicare beneficiaries to review their coverage options during open enrollment.”

Some of the highlights from the survey show:

  • Most enrollees intend to review their Medicare options during AEP and more than one-quarter think they’ll switch. About 79% of respondents intend to review their options during AEP; 78% are satisfied with their coverage today and 26% think they’re likely to switch to a new plan this AEP.

  • Drug costs drive purchasing decisions for a third of beneficiaries. Thirty-two percent of respondents say that prescription drug costs are the number one factor they rely upon when choosing a new Medicare plan.

  • New Medicare Advantage benefits interest beneficiaries. Approximately 70% of Medicare Advantage enrollees expressed interest in additional or expanded dental and vision benefits, while 35% expressed interest in coverage for alternative medicine treatments.

Data from the survey also predicts the new and expanded benefits may drive enrollments.

Among those who expressed interest in new Medicare Advantage benefits, 41% said the presence of these benefits would be a big influencer in choosing a plan; an additional 51% said these benefits would influence them to a degree.

Approximately 27% of lower income beneficiaries, those with annual income below $25,000, shared they are more interested in medical transportation, while 28% are interested in nutritional support. That’s compared to 13% for transportation and 15%, respectively, among those with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000, the survey said.

“Nearly a third (32%) of survey respondents said prescription drug costs were the number one factor they consider when shopping for a new plan,” says Flanders.

The survey shares pharmacy costs are a bigger concern for women than men. Approximately 34% of women said prescription drug cost were their number one concern when selecting Medicare plans, compared to 29% of men. Pharmacy costs are also a bigger factor for people with lower-income. Approximately 46% of those with an annual income of less than $25,000 said prescription drug costs were their number one concern when choosing a plan, compared to 20% of those with an income between $75,000 and $100,000.

Lastly, data shared premiums, out-of-pocket costs and network providers are all big factors for Medicare shoppers. Approximately 27% said monthly premium was their top concern when shopping for a new Medicare plan, and an additional 27% said out-of-pocket costs were their top concerns when shopping.

Premiums are an especially big concern for older enrollees, the survey says.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents aged 80 years and older said the monthly premiums were the most important factor when choosing a Medicare plan, compared to 21% of respondents under 65 years, and 26% of those aged 65 to 70 years. Beneficiaries in their 70s are especially concerned about provider access with 27% of respondents aged 71 to 79 years saying access to their preferred medical providers is their top priority in choosing a plan, compared to 18% of those aged 80 years and older.

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